Chemistry Tutoring in the Boston and Cambridge Area

Frequently Asked Questions

This list should answer many of the questions you may have about the tutoring process in general and about Justin's approach to tutoring. If you have any other questions, you can contact Justin here.
  • How much do you charge for tutoring?
    The rate for individual, one-on-one tutoring varies depending on the length of the tutoring session. The rate for a single 1-hour session is $100, and the rate for a single 2-hour session is $160. In addition, Prepaid Tutoring Packages are available for 10 or 20 hours of tutoring and offer additional savings off the cost of separate 1-hour sessions. Small-group tutoring is also available, and the price per hour depends on the size of the group. As the size of the group increases, the cost per student per hour decreases. Thus, small-group tutoring can provide a useful and affordable option for students who arrange a study group. You can find more detailed information and a complete list of tutoring rates here. Back to Top.
  • What days and times do you have available for tutoring?
    In the fall of 2014, I will be tutoring on Sundays and Tuesdays. Once I start meeting with a student at a regular time, I do everything I can to maintain that meeting time on a weekly basis. In addition, I will always give scheduling priority to my regular students and to students who have purchased a Prepaid Tutoring Package. Back to Top.
  • How do you typically schedule your tutoring appointments?
    I usually ask students what days and times are convenient for them to meet and how long they would like to meet. Once I have that information, I will contact students with the times we can meet. I typically use email to stay in touch with students and arrange appointments. If you do not have regular access to email, just let me know and we can stay in touch by phone or text messaging. Back to Top.
  • Where do you meet students for tutoring?
    I typically meet students at a convenient public location, such as a cafe or public library in the Harvard Square area of Cambridge. Back to Top.
  • How long does one session last?
    The minimum length of time for a single tutoring session is 1 hour, and, if my schedule permits, I am happy to schedule sessions for any amount of time requested beyond this minimum. Thus, how long we meet is really up to you! For an initial meeting, I would recommend either 1 hour or 1.5 hours. Some students find a slightly longer initial meeting can be helpful in order for me to determine where they are with the material and what approach would be most helpful for them. After our initial meeting, you can decide how long you would like to meet based on how much material you need to cover. Ask yourself: How comfortable do I feel with the material? How much material do I need to cover? What do I want to accomplish during each session? The answers to these questions will often help you determine how long we should meet. And if you still aren't sure how much time to schedule, let me know specifically what material you want to cover, and I can give you an estimate of how much time we may need. Back to Top.
  • How often should we meet?
    I would recommend meeting on a weekly basis. The best way to succeed in any chemistry course is to maintain consistent study habits throughout the semester. This allows you to learn and master the material each week as it is presented and makes preparation for the exams an exercise in reviewing and solidifying your understanding of the material rather than a frantic attempt to learn a large amount of material in a very short period of time. I feel very strongly that the only way to learn, understand, and retain the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in chemistry is by consistent and regular work. Meeting on a weekly basis allows us to address any difficulty you have with the material immediately as it arises, avoiding problems in the weeks and months ahead. The frequency of our meetings, however, is entirely up to you. Although most students schedule weekly meetings, some students prefer to meet twice a week, and others request meetings only before exams. You certainly don't need to decide ahead of time how often you would like to meet. If you are interested in scheduling an initial session, we can meet once, and then you can decide if and when you would like to meet again, and we can take things from there. Whatever schedule you prefer, I will do my best to accommodate you and to make our sessions as useful and productive as possible. Back to Top.
  • What classes do you tutor?
    I tutor for all General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry courses. Many of the students I work with are students at the Harvard Extension School or the Harvard Summer School, and I have extensive experience working with Extension School students who often have limited math and science backgrounds. I have also tutored continuing education students from other schools, college undergraduates, and high school students. I am happy to work with students of any age and ability, taking classes at any school in the area. See here for more examples of courses for which I provide tutoring. (Note: In the fall of 2014 I will be the Head Teaching Assistant for Chemistry E-1a, General Chemistry I, at the Harvard Extension School, so I will not be able to tutor any students enrolled in that course.) Back to Top.
  • What do you do during a tutoring session?
    My approach to each tutoring session depends on the needs of the individual student. My goal is to be as useful to the student as possible in the time that we have. Consequently, my instructional style can vary significantly from student to student. If a student has a list of specific problems that are causing difficulty, I can help the student work through each problem. In other cases, a student may want reinforcement with problems of a certain type, and we can spend the time covering general techniques for approaching such problems and look at some specific examples so that the student can practice the application of those techniques. And in other cases, a student may want me to provide an overview of the material, focusing on the key aspects that are necessary for solving the types of problems that are likely to appear on exams. How we work together is completely up to you. What approach would you find most useful? Do you have specific questions, or would you prefer that we cover the material in a broader fashion? Is there one particular topic or type of question that you are struggling with, or are you having difficulty with all of the material? I will tailor our meeting to your needs so that you can get the most out of the time that we have together. Back to Top.
  • Do I need tutoring?
    This is a question that only you can answer. It has been my experience, however, that students of all levels often find tutoring helpful. Whether you are really struggling in a class or you are doing quite well but would like to do better, a good tutor can help. Tutoring can make your study time more efficient and more effective. If you have any specific questions about how I might be able to help you, don't hesitate to contact me! Back to Top.
  • Will tutoring help me get a better grade in my class?
    Tutoring can help you earn a better grade in your course, but tutoring by itself will not guarantee you a better grade. In my experience, the two most significant factors in determining a student's grade are how much time is spent studying and how effectively that time is used. If you don't spend enough time studying the material on your own and you don't study properly when you are working on your own, then time spent with a tutor is not going to help you master the material. Remember, to perform well on the exams you need to be able to solve the problems on your own, and the only way to develop that skill is to practice solving the problems on your own. Your tutor cannot sit next to you during an exam, so the ability to solve problems with your tutor is only of limited utility. So what use is tutoring? Tutoring can make your own studying more efficient and can show you the proper techniques to study the material. Thus, tutoring can save you time, avoid frustration, and make the time you do spend studying more efficient and more effective. This in turn should help you get a better grade in the class. But studying under a tutor requires a real commitment from you. If you meet with me regularly but you don't change any aspects of your studying habits, then you may not see significant improvement in your performance. When we meet, I will very clearly outline how you should be studying and how much material you need to be covering each week. If you follow my suggestions, both in terms of the time you need to spend studying each week and the manner in which you need to study, you will give yourself the best opportunity to improve your performance in you course. Back to Top.
  • Do I need to prepare for our meetings?
    You do not need to prepare for our meetings, but often students find that doing so will allow them to get more out of them. Since we only have a limited time to work together, we can work most efficiently if you have a good sense of what material you feel comfortable with and what material is causing you problems. A single one- or two-hour tutoring session is typically not enough time to cover thoroughly and comprehensively all aspects of the material that are presented in a given week. But if you have already narrowed the material down to some specific topics and questions, then the time we spend can be much more detailed because we have a smaller amount of material to cover. Ultimately, how much work or preparation you are able to do before our meeting will often determine how we cover the material when we meet. If you haven't been able to do much work on your own, then we might take a broader approach to the material. If you know specific topics that are causing you trouble, we can focus specifically on those. And if you have specific questions or problems you want to address, we can focus solely on those. Students have often found each of these approaches to be helpful in different ways, and you can consider what would be most useful for you and prepare accordingly. Back to Top.
  • I have been working hard, but I am still not doing as well as I would like. What else can I do?
    Getting a tutor is a good place to start. The two most important factors in determining how a student will perform in a chemistry class are the amount of time spent studying and the type of studying. How much time do you need to study? This varies from student to student. For the same class, one student might need to work for ten hours a week outside of class, another student fifteen hours, and another twenty hours. I prefer not to set time limits on how much work needs to be done, but rather to establish the amount of work you should be doing each week. If that amount of work takes ten hours, or fifteen hours, or twenty hours, then that is how long you need to work. Furthermore, how you spend your time studying is just as important as how much time you spend studying. Again, this is why I like to approach studying as a checklist of things you need to do, rather than as a timesheet of hours that needs to be filled up. Following a list of things you need to do in your studying each week will ensure that you are studying things that will actually help you improve. Studying for hours without clear goals and objectives will not help you improve. If we work together, I can teach you exactly how to study the material and lay out exactly how much work you need to do and what is the most efficient way to do it. If you feel that you are working hard but are still not doing as well as you would like, it is possible that, even though you think you are working hard, in actuality you may need to be spending even more time studying the material. On the other hand, you may be spending a lot of time studying, but doing so in an inefficient and unproductive fashion. In such cases, I can show you how to work through the material efficiently and productively. Hopefully you can see from this discussion that it is very important to assess HOW you are studying and not just HOW MUCH you are studying. In addition to showing you how to solve the problems you encounter, I will also emphasize study strategies that can help you succeed in the course you are taking. Back to Top.
  • Do you do all of the tutoring yourself?
    Yes, I do all of the tutoring arranged through McCartyTutoring. Unlike some of the larger tutoring companies in the Boston and Cambridge area that hire undergraduate and graduate students at local universities to work as their tutors, I do not contract out any tutoring to other individuals. By doing all of the tutoring myself, I can be assured of the quality of tutoring that is provided to all of my students, and I can assure my students that I will be reliably and consistently available throughout the year. Back to Top.
  • Do you do online tutoring?
    No, I only tutor students in person. Some tutors and tutoring companies do offer online tutoring using video software such as Skype or other interactive online software. In my experience, however, while such online tutoring is convenient, I do not find it to be particularly effective or efficient. If you are paying a tutor for their time, you should be getting as much as possible out of that time. Online or video tutoring is simply no replacement for in person, face-to-face instruction. I want my time with students to be as productive and efficient as possible, and thus I will only tutor students in person. Back to Top.
  • Do you organize groups for small-group tutoring?
    No. Small-group tutoring can provide a very effective and economical option for many students. However, in order for small group tutoring to be useful for all students in the group, it is important that all of the students know each other, feel comfortable working together, and have a general consensus on the material we cover and the overall pace of the tutoring session. If you are interested in small-group tutoring, talk to friends and colleagues in your class and organize a group of fellow students with whom you feel comfortable. In addition, communication between members of the group prior to the tutoring session in order to agree on what specific topics or types of problems should be covered will greatly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our meetings. Back to Top.
  • Do you tutor other subjects besides chemistry?
    No. In my experience the ability to tutor effectively requires more than knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. It requires a thorough and deep familiarity with the material, experience in quickly diagnosing students' problems with the material, and knowledge of the common mistakes and misunderstandings that confront students at all levels. Further, it requires familiarity with the specific courses the students are taking and knowledge of how material is likely to be tested on the exams. Although providing tutoring for math, physics, and biology would certainly bring in more students, it would dilute my ability to be an effective tutor. In short, I believe in tutoring the subject that I know best and tutoring it as well as possible. Back to Top.